Sometimes, almost is just enough, but most of the time, it's dreadfully too little.
The Detroit Tigers had a decent week on the road. They won a series in Arizona and the series opener in Los Angeles before dropping three straight to the Angels afterwards in frustrating fashion.
Why did the Tigers lose the games they lost on the road trip? A lack of offense, plain and simple. Though others were included, Sunday's effort was the most glaring. The Tigers managed only three hits and one run in losing to the Angels 2-1. The trip also included other "almost" losses of 2-1, 4-0 and 5-4, which were all very winnable games and missed opportunities.
Last week, in the midst of Detroit's deal for Joakim Soria, Tigers' General Manager Dave Dombrowski intimated he wasn't going to think about the offense. When asked if a move to help the lineup, specifically a left-handed hitter or veteran infielder was a priority, Dombrowski was fairly blunt.
"I don't know that either one of them would be high on our priority list at this point in time," he said.
The key buzz-words, however, remain "I don't know" and "this point in time." That latter concept is always changing. The Tigers continue to be mystifying offensively. Capable of out-slugging teams (a 11-5 win in Arizona) and battering the oppositions' aces (a 6-4 triumph over Garrett Richards), there's just as many if not more lost opportunities thanks to the team's prolonged offensive pitfalls.
How many frustrating losses driven by offensive deficiencies will be too many for Dombrowski to ignore? While not a necessity, a move for Jimmy Rollins would help take the pressure off everyone else. Rookie Eugenio Suarez would no longer have to be exclusively depended upon at shortstop. Detroit's lineup would gain another table setter at the top and a capable left-handed swinger. It would be the type of bold move that could help put the Tigers over the top this year.
With the trade deadline later this week, the Tigers' next move will say plenty about Dombrowski's satisfaction going forward. If he's prepared to sit back and wait for struggles to subside and hot streaks to re-emerge, he'll still be taking a significant chance with a roster that's designed to win this season.
If recent offensive inconsistencies show anything, it's that opportunities for a few tiny but meaningful tweaks do still exist to ensure that "almost" doesn't become an unfortunate late-season theme.
Player Of The Week: Drew Smyly. Despite losing Friday, Smyly has been lights-out over the past week. He beat the Cleveland Indians last Sunday taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning, and continued upon that dominance pitching a perfect game through the fifth against the Angels while racking up the strikeout numbers impressively. Though he was only 1-1 in both games and the very hard-luck loser on Friday, Smyly is making his case as a dark horse for the rotation's best pitcher in the second half up to this point. Suddenly, a move back to the bullpen might not need to be debated at all.
Play Of The Week: Miguel Cabrera's three-run home run beats the Diamondbacks. Needling a big hit to break open the game, the Tigers got the Jim Leyland special—a three-run home run—to do just that and beat Arizona going away. It's the type of hit the team will need to get more and more down the stretch to avoid frustrating losses driven by rough offensive outputs. When home runs are flying out of the yard with men on base, suddenly, the bullpen and lineup can look much, much better.
The Challenge Ahead: Beating the bad teams on the schedule. Over the next home stand, the Tigers will face the Chicago White Sox and Colorado Rockies, two teams that are cellar dwelling. Going toe to toe with the Angels and coming up just short is understandable, but Detroit will need to rise to the challenge in a big way this week and do something which is often tough in baseball: beat the bad teams on the schedule consistently enough to get ahead.
Question For This Week: Do the Tigers add more at the trade deadline? It's a major question, too, seeing as Detroit could probably use a left handed reliever and perhaps another bat. If Dombrowski sits on the sidelines, he'll be depending on Phil Coke and Ian Krol to pitch better, as well as giving an offense that's prone to streakiness a major vote of confidence. Though it might make sense, it would also be very dangerous for a team that could be on the cusp of something great
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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